Male soccer and basketball players on scholarships in any of the major conferences can expect to soon earn a minimum of $50,000 every year he plays due to the influx of money from so-called recall collectives that negotiate name, image and likeness deals.
This prediction, based on market trends, was made this week by Blake Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of a company that helps athletes and schools navigate the ever-changing NIL landscape.
The increase in dollar amounts available to college athletes through the recent formation of collectives has caught the attention of the NCAA, which this week published guidelines for schools hoping to maintain the original intent of indemnification NIL.
College sports leaders are concerned that some collectives have gone beyond paying athletes for activities such as endorsements and appearances and are breaking the ban on paying for play by offering money to influence athletes’ decisions on where to go to school. NCAA rules prohibit boosters from contacting potential recruits.
Lawrence co-founded Opendorse in 2012 to facilitate sponsorship deals for professional athletes. The former Nebraska football player was among the advisors who worked with the NCAA on developing NIL policy, and he expanded his business to provide opportunities for college athletes to profit from their fame and developed technology compliance that allows schools to track offers.
Lawrence based his minimum of $50,000 a year per player on the assumption that recall collectives pay about $5 million a year into NIL pools and some of the money will go to athletes in other sports. . There are collectives supporting NIL in more than half of the 65 Power Five schools, including Notre Dame, and more are forming.
Michael LeRoy, a University of Illinois labor law professor who studies college athlete compensation, said Lawrence’s projection was perfect.
“It’s an overheated market,” LeRoy said, “and it really reflects the pent-up demand to pay players.”
Lawrence said a top five-star recruit could have zero-earning potential of more than $1 million a year when money from sources outside the recall collective is factored in, especially if he is a quarterback. Four-star rookies could well earn in the six figures.
But even a lower-ranking recruit to a less glamorous position would be well paid — the $50,000 salary — because the recall collective will make sure of that to keep the peace in the team, Lawrence said.
“If an entire class comes onto campus and they’re all scholarship athletes and one individual is making six figures and another is making zero dollars, that’s going to create a rift,” Lawrence said. “What these groups have done in some markets is they realize it’s about equality. Every individual in that locker room will be getting some kind of support so that there is equality at a base layer level. And there can be additional value for the most marketable and influential individuals in each recruiting class.
How long recall collectives choose to fund NIL opportunities is debatable.
Jason Belzer, attorney and founder of Student-Athlete NIL, which has worked with Penn State and Rutgers to create collectives, said establishing a fair market value for athletes is a moving target and is essential that athletes are paid for providing real service in return.
Belzer used the example of every SEC school having a collective with $10 million a year going to football players. He said members of the collective supporting the last-place team might be disenchanted and regret funding NIL.
“They’re going to say, ‘Well, I’m not putting in any more money, because my investment hasn’t provided any return. I didn’t put my name on a building. Otherwise, I had no access to anything. And wait a second. Now I don’t want this coach anymore, but I just gave all my money to student-athletes, I can’t even pay to buy the guy out,” Belzer said.
AP College Sports Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed.
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